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Cricket news - India, Australia embark on fine-tuning mission

It's that time of the year when press conferences are littered with questions about the World Cup. Who gets in, who falls out, why this ploy, why not that - there's all sorts of them thrown at captains who are at their guarded best, revealing precious little along the way. There is, of course, the talk of trying to win the series first, but deep down the priority will still be to indulge in fine-tuning on what will be the final stretch before the World Cup sprint.

For India, fine-tuning will also mean finding the best possible way to give as much game time as possible to those who they view as reserves - players 12 to 15 in the 15-man squad in England. Starting on Saturday, that might have to be tested, even if it brings along a few tweaks to the overall combination of the side. How the likes of KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, and even Ravindra Jadeja and Vijay Shankar play could be some of the biggest takeaways for the hosts.

Australia have their own World Cup auditions to run. With Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood rested, and Pat Cummins enjoying a purple patch that makes him a World Cup certainty, the floor is now open for Jhye Richardson, Jason Beherendorff and Nathan Coulter-Nile to slug it out for the last vacant fast bowlers' spot. The breathing space for this bunch is marginally more, considering Australia have five more ODIs to play after this series - against Pakistan in UAE.

For all the World Cup aspirants across the two teams that need to turn the attention of the selectors, a fast start will be key. If the opportunity comes as early as Hyderabad, their fate will rest in how they go in the opening ODI of the series.

When: India vs Australia 1st ODI, March 2, 2019, 1:30 PM IST

Where: Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad

What to expect: Partly cloudy skies with a maximum temperature of 33 degrees Celsius. As evidenced in recent IPL seasons, the Hyderabad pitch has something in it for the bowlers, and has traditionally been on the slower side.

Team News:

India

Virat Kohli said he was ready to drop down to the no. 4 spot if Ravi Shastri and the team management ask that of him. Should that materialise, India could consider trying KL Rahul - who Kohli rates very highly - at No.3 in favour of Ambati Rayudu who was to originally bat at No.4. That, though, would be disservice to Rayudu, who has come closest to solving India's long and dreary struggles to find the ideal batsman at two drop.

Kohli also reckoned the bowling combinations was not to be tampered with, which means India will stick to having six bowling options, even if that puts a question mark over game-time for Rishabh Pant who has just this series to prove why he should be on the plane to England as the back-up wicketkeeper.

Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and Mohammed Shami could be the four front line bowling options, with Kedar Jadhav and Vijay Shankar sharing the burden of the fifth bowler's quota.

Probable XI: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul/Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni, Vijay Shankar, Kedar Jadhav, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Yuzvendra Chahal

Australia

Aaron Finch confirmed the inclusion of Alex Carey in the final XI as the wicketkeeper. Shaun Marsh, who flew in along with Kane Richardson's replacement, Andrew Tye, is unavailable for selection for the first ODI. However, D'Arcy Short, who was with the team as cover for Marsh, is also heading back home now that Marsh has joined the side.

Finch remained non-committal about whether he'd be partnered by Usman Khawaja or Marcus Stoinis at the top of the order, but his admission of the latter's resourcefulness in the later stages of the game might be the inadvertent answer to the question. There was also praise for Peter Handscomb's prowess against spin bowling, which should earn him a spot in the middle-order.

Finch went ahead and made two further revelation - one, his excitement about the ODI debut of Ashton Turner during the course of the series, who the skipper thinks can fit in at the top as well as the middle-order, and two, Maxwell's overdue promotion in the batting order.

Probable XI: Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Ashton Turner, Alex Carey, Adam Zampa, Pat Cummins, Jhye Richardson, Jason Beherendorff/Nathan Coulter-Nile

What they said:

"Both teams know each other very well. We were talking at practice as well that Australia have a better idea of playing in Indian conditions because of the number of guys playing in the IPL two months in a year and practicing what they need to. So they are pretty used to playing in these conditions, so we will have to be at our absolute best." - Virat Kohli

"Glenn will get an opportunity to bat higher than he did in the series against India in Australia, when he batted No.7." - Aaron Finch

Did You Know?

- Australia have won both their ODIs in the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium beating India by 47 runs in 2007 and by three runs in 2009.

- In the eight home series for Virat Kohli since 2014, he failed to register a three-figure score only in one rubber - against Australia in 2017.

- Rohit Sharma is tied with MS Dhoni on 215 sixes - the most for India in ODIs.

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